Pastor Sherry’s message for 8/1/2021

Scriptures: 2 Sam 11:26-12:13a; Ps 51; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:24-35

    I’m dating myself, now, but do any of you remember a comedy routine by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello called “Who’s on first”?  The premise is that Bud [the smart, serious guy] is trying to explain the location of the baseball players—Who, What, and I Don’t Know–to Lou [the less smart but funny one]:

        Lou:  Who’s on first [base]?

        Bud: Yes, Who’s on first.

        Lou: That’s what I want to know, who’s on first?

        Bud: Exactly, Who’s on first.

        Lou (by now getting exasperated):  That’s what I want to know. What’s the fella’s name on first?

        Bud:  No, no.  What’s on second, Who’s on first.

        Lou (now pulling his hair, getting angry):  Let’s try something different.  Who’s on third?

        Bud:  No, no, no.  Who’s on 1st.  I Don’t’ Know’s on 3rd.

        Lou (now angrily shouting): If you don’t know, who does?

        Bud: Yes, Who knows, he’s the captain.

        And it continues as Lou gets increasingly upset and confused.

    This famous comedy routine is somewhat reminiscent of our Gospel lesson today, John 6:24-35.  It appears that Jesus, and some spokespersons from the crowd following Him, are talking from completely different perspectives/understandings. The crowd wants another free meal. But Jesus is not so much interested in feeding their bellies as He is in saving their souls.  It seems that Jesus and the crowd are speaking at cross-purposes with each other 

It’s just like the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). Jesus offers her “living water,” which she assumes means flowing [not stagnant] water. She’d like a private source of water that was clean and not algae-infested. Then she wouldn’t have to fill her pail at the public well and encounter the women who taunt her about her lifestyle. Like Lou in “Who’s on first,” she isn’t getting it. Jesus is actually offering her something better than clean water; He is offering her eternal life.

    The same is true of the Pharisee, Nicodemus, in John 3:1-18.  He is puzzled about what Jesus means by “rebirth,” thinking Jesus is requiring him to re-enter his mother’s womb as an adult.  Instead, Jesus is instructing him in what it takes to enter God’s Kingdom:  belief in Jesus as God’s Son.

    How patient our God is with them and with us.  Jesus is concerned foremost with our salvation—our deepest spiritual need; while they and we so often are more concerned with our physical and relational needs—hunger, thirst, healing, restored relationships, etc. 

    Let’s try to enter into God’s perspective on what’s most important in our lives by looking at our Gospel and our Old Testament readings:

    In John 6: 24-35, the crowd follows Jesus in order to obtain more food.  But He wants them to know that He is the Bread of Life.  They don’t get it.  They want to know what they must do to be fed.  Who’s on first?

They and we don’t have to do anything to be fed spiritually except to believe in Jesus.  It’s a free gift, but they can’t take that in.

So they ask for a sign. They’ve just had a sign. Jesus fed anywhere from 5,000-15,000 from next to nothing, the multiplication miracle I preached about last week. They want to see Him do it again. They ask him, How about producing manna, like Moses did? Jesus tells them that God, not Moses, was responsible for the manna. Now, God has sent His Son, Jesus. Manna sustained the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus knows what they really need is the true manna, God’s spiritual provision, in Jesus—which will sustain them eternally

    The question then strikes me, How much proof do we need?  Will another miracle be the event that tips us, them, into belief?  They had the Old Testament as their Scripture; we have the Old and the New.  What else do we need?  Often we need a personal experience of Christ, reaching inot our lives.  They have just witnessed Jesus feeding a horde of folks from 5 small loaves and two small fish.  He is not going to perform for them like a trained seal.  They need to realize that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the Living Water, the Manna from Heaven, the Only Way to the Father.  He is our Salvation!

    Our Old Testament Lesson, 2 Sam 11:26-12:13a, provides such a great example of why we need Jesus.  You may remember from last week that King David has sinned by 

        1.) Coveting and entering into an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife;

        2.) And by arranging for Uriah’s death when she becomes pregnant by David.

    Though his sins are state secrets, several of the psalms he penned tell us he has not really gotten off scott-free.  Only Bathsheba, the servants who David sent to gather her, and Joab, his general, know of his treachery, and they are not talking!  They know he could have them arrested and executed.  Nevertheless, King David feels wretched.  Several of the psalms he wrote, including today’s psalm, Psalm 51, tell of his great, private shame, remorse, and misery: (v.4) For I know my transgressions, and my sin in always before me.  In Psalm 31:10, he wrote—My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.  Similarly in Psalm 32:3–When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  We would say the Holy Spirit has brought him under conviction and he is suffering the resulting emotional anguish.

The only One who knows–besides those who refuse to talk—is the Lord. Notice that God does not abandon King David to his sin. Instead, He sends the brave prophet, Nathan, to call him to account. Nathan tells David a story about a poor man taken advantage of by a rich man. David, thinking this is a report about someone in his kingdom, is outraged! He wants the rich man brought to justice! So Nathan confronts him (v.7)—You are the man! The story was only a metaphor. Nathan conveys God’s disappointment in David. God had given him so much. The Lord has in fact “blessed his socks off!” But David’s sinful actions convey to God that he lacks gratitude to and has contempt for the Lord. (What a novel way to consider sin: Our sins show our contempt for God. YIKES!)

    David has 3 choices in the way he could respond:

        1.) He could deny his sin altogether—as they do in DC today;

        2.) He could have Nathan executed—as any despot would;

        3.) Or he could admit the truth.

This is how King David is a man after God’s own heart:  He admits his sin, he repents, and he asks God to forgive and restore him.

    Remember, this is a saga from the Old Testament.  It predates the saving work of Jesus Christ.  God graciously forgives David and Bathsheba, but He does not prevent the grave consequences of David’s sin from affecting him.  Notice the boomerang effect of the Law of Sowing and Reaping:

        1.) The child born to Bathsheba, a firstborn son, dies after birth (his death for a death?).

        2.) Later, one of David’s other sons, Amnon, covets and rapes his beautiful step-sister, Tamar (a sexual sin—rape–for a sexual sin–adultery). 

        3.) Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, kills Amnon in revenge (another death for a death).

        4.) Still later, Absalom will try to wrest the throne from David (lawlessness and rebellion against David for lawlessness and rebellion against God).

As God proclaims through the prophet Nathan, (v.16)—Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. 

Psalm 51, is David’s great plea to be made right with God again, and is such a great model for us to follow when we sin. First, he makes it very clear that he regrets what he has done. Second, he admits that he knows what God requires of him. Third, he states his conviction, his faith, that God can forgive and renew him: Verse 7–Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Verse 10–Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Verse 17–The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

    David begs for God’s forgiveness and God grants it.

    What would our Lord want us to learn from these passages? We too can get at cross-purposes with God when we come to Him always and only to meet our physical or emotional needs.  First and foremost, He is concerned with our spiritual life.  He wants to save us.  He wants our trust, our love, and our obedience.

God’s greatest concern is that we draw close to Him. When we sin and cut ourselves off from Him, what are we to do? Like King David, we want to confess our sins to God. Like King David, we want to ask for God’s forgiveness. Thanks be to God that we don’t have to worry about who’s on first. Jesus Christ, our outstanding Coach, has all the bases covered.

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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